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End of Term Report Part 1 29/05/2017

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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You know the form by now.  A trot through the season’s roster, most of it.  Some will still be here next season, some will go over the summer, some will leave at the end of August…  those that did so this year tend to not feature in this write-up, much as the likes of Almen Abdi, Ikechi Anya and Matěj Vydra all merited more than just slipping out of the door.  They all feel like characters from a story half-remembered, and we watch on in puzzlement at their different flavours of underachievement in the championship.  Anyway…

1 – Heurelho Gomes

It’s been mentioned at this stage before, but in recruiting Gomes from a long way down Spurs’ pecking order three years ago we were working from a tried and tested template.  Manuel Almunia had been similarly discarded at Arsenal, similarly unreasonably tainted in the eyes of the watching public.  As with Almunia, Gomes reminded everyone straight away why he’d been such a prized asset in the first place, that he’s a very fine goalkeeper.

But Gomes has moved beyond that now.  Beyond simply a goalkeeper who proved to be a better player, with more left to offer than many had lazily concluded.  He’s a leader, and suddenly in our hugely transient squad he’s a stalwart, three years in.  You wouldn’t have it any other way.  Throughout all of our ups and downs in form this season Gomes has been a constant; he started every League fixture and at the times when things were getting a bit edgy, when the side was at its less convincing the sight of Heurelho between the sticks exhorting teammates and fans to further efforts was hugely reassuring.  Like Tommy Smith in the Vialli season, a reason to believe that Everything Will Be Alright In The End.  At the end of games, whatever the result, Troy and Heurelho saluting the crowd; in interviews manifestly evident that he gets it, fully professional and a thoroughly decent bloke.

Next Season:   This season has seen Heurelho make more errors than in his previous seasons, which merely means more than one; he was nonetheless indisputably one of the stars of the campaign. With Big Pants seemingly out of favour it seems reasonable to expect stiffer competition to be brought in over the summer, but Gomes remains our number 1. Hurrah.

3 – Miguel Britos

At the end of last summer I took my daughters to the club’s Open Day at the Fullerians rugby club. Long queues had formed by the meet-the-player tents in the sunshine by the time we arrived, queues formed of children and parents more experienced in these events than I was. Foolishly I decided that our time queuing was better spent collecting and printing new home shirts; by the time we decided to join the back of the meet-the-players queues, we’d missed the boat and harried looking club staff were fending people off.

Feeling guilty at making such a gross strategic error and wondering whether an ice cream would quite cut it as compensation I eventually took the girls back towards the big tent to pick up our name-printed shirts and ran into Miguel Britos. The coach was leaving, and Miguel would have been forgiven for apologising politely after an afternoon of relentless autographs and selfies but he was as accommodating as could be. He didn’t know that the girls had been let down by their inept father, that he was the only player they were destined to meet; he gave us his time anyway. The photo is amazing… Daughter 1 retains a semblance of almost-a-teenager cool, betrayed by a giveaway smile. Daughter 2 makes no such pretence, her eyes are about to pop out.

Being a good bloke doesn’t qualify you for playing centre back in the Premier League, but it helps in my book. Or at least, it helps to want to root for someone. Miguel has looked nervy at times this season but there’s context… regularly switching from a three to a four, injuries meaning that the make up of the central defence changed from game to game. Miguel was generally picked when available though, only once slipping to the bench when available. Still a solid option.

Next Season: Left-sided defenders aren’t easy to come by. Might be high on some fans’ hit-lists, but I can see him still being around in August. Good job too.

4 – Younès Kaboul

The signing of Younès Kaboul was a fine thing for a number of reasons. Firstly, signing Younès Kaboul announces you as an established mid-table Premier League club as well as anything I can think of. We Have Arrived, and are here to stay. Second, the reaction on Wearside – nothing against Sunderland, but the ex-club’s messageboards are a pretty reliable indicator. (It can work the other way too… my excitement at Lewis McGugan’s signing lasted as long as it took for me to glance at the Forest reaction. I was expecting hysteria. There wasn’t any).

Thirdly, because big, bootery defenders, particularly big bootery defenders who look pretty scarey, are something that you can’t really have enough of. I’m all for them.

And if Kaboul hasn’t been an unqualified success – whilst he’s terrifying in a back four he’s looked vulnerable as part of a three, particularly in a wide position – he’s still a Good Thing. He’s got a big personality, more than a decade’s worth of Premier League experience and he kicks the ball really hard. What’s not to like?

Next Season: As above, quite how vital Kaboul will be rather depends on how Marco Silva plans to line us up – significantly, his Hull teams appear to have switched between defensive formations too. Difficult to imagine a world in which Kaboul won’t be at the very least a Useful Thing to Have, tho.

5 – Sebastian Prödl

Here’s a strange thing: Seb Prödl isn’t thirty yet.

Pausing only briefly to acknowledge that “getting on” for a footballer really isn’t very old at all and that I should really get on with doing “things that I’ll do when I grow up” rather than vaguely thinking about them… it remains a fact that Prödl isn’t very old, even by a footballer’s standards.

Why, then, does he seem older? Maybe in part because he came to us an established international defender; he’d captained Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga, and was a senior player in the Austrian side. He plays like a veteran, with the absolute assurance of someone who’s been there, done that, dealt with anything you can throw at him before.

But there’s something else, I think. Because the fact is that whilst Seb narrowly, deservedly walked off with the Player of the Season award (and named after GT or not I can’t help but feel a little uncomfortable at the unexplained sidelining of the Watford Observer) he was actually looking like winning the award by a country mile halfway through the season, based on that monstrous performance against Manchester United and others like it.

Then we switched to a back four, which rather exposed the bits that Seb isn’t quite so good at. He’s not the quickest on the turn… in the middle of the three he’s in his element, furiously and defiantly in control with quicker legs doing the running either side of him. In a four… well, he’s almost the ying to Kaboul’s yang. He moves like an older man.

A very fine season nonetheless, and another player you instinctively warm to.

Next Season: He did seem to be waving goodbye when he went off at Stamford Bridge didn’t he? You hope not… and, you know, three years on his contract and everything. But still…

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Comments»

1. Paul Curtis - 01/06/2017

Amazed to see there were no comments when I came back to this, so I can only assume everyone is busy canvassing for Corbyn. Anyway a heart felt thanks for all your missives from all my family spread across the UK.

2. SteveG - 01/06/2017

Being left to lead on your own for much of the time with little support from the rest of the team, little or no delivery from the right wing and a lack of creative thinking in the centre – it’s been a tough 12 months for Corbyn as well as Deeney.


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